During this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama championed the goal of increasing bandwidth in schools across the country. The following day, a group of CEOs wrote an open letter encouraging the chairman of the FCC to “act boldly to modernize the E-rate program to provide the capital needed to upgrade our K-12 broadband connectivity and Wi-Fi infrastructure.” These calls to action were answered with pledges from business leaders amounting to $750 million dollars, an influx of money that should help provide more enriching learning environments for students across the country.
As schools begin to plan for the benefits of improved connectivity, it is important to consider the responsibility of giving students guidance in becoming productive citizens of the web. New curricula must acknowledge the many-headed hydra that is social media: Its forms range from the mundane distraction to be overcome to the 21st century communication skill to be mastered. Integration of conscious social media use as well as policies that provide more free and unfiltered Internet access are two ways of modeling best practices and actively teaching Internet skills within schools.
Especially as mobile devices enter the classrooms, students are exposed to the full range of what is available on the Internet. So it should be in the domain of schools more than ever to help students manage these capabilities. In an article called “Driven to distraction: How to help wired students learn to focus,” psychologist Larry Rosen finds in his research that students who are constantly distracted by social media do far worse academically than their peers who exercise less impulse control about their use of technology. Even with these findings, Rosen does not insist that technology be kept out of the classroom—in fact, he recommends allowing this part of kids lives into the classroom through managed “technology breaks.”